Find Something You Can Fix

Many of us fall into one or more of several categories about the state of local, regional, national and international affairs. We are or feel:

  • Fatalistic
  • Depressed
  • Impotent
  • Cynical
  • Overwhelmed
  • Exhausted

Of course we might also believe that a specific ideology or political leaning is the panacea that is the cure-all for the world’s ills. Even with such an underlying belief, it’s impossible to avoid periodically feeling as though we are  tumbling in a wave in the ocean, disoriented and desperately searching for the surface.

Several years ago I wrote a children’s song called “Starfish” based on the often-told tale of two people walking along the shore when they come upon scores of starfish that were washed up onto the sand. With every step or two, one of the people picks up a starfish and throws it back in the water. The other person says, “There are so many starfish here! What difference does it make if you throw a few of them back?” The first person picks up another starfish, throws it back in the water and says, “It made a difference to that one!”

The chorus of the song I wrote begins with the line: “Find something you can fix.” I really believe that’s what we’re supposed to do with our lives: find something, anything, one thing in which to be involved and try to repair and/or heal that situation. Actor and activist George Clooney was once asked why he became so passionate and focused on the issue of genocide of and support for refugees from Darfur. His answer was simple, “Why NOT Darfur?” There’s a Hasidic tale whose message is that each of us has, indeed, only one mission to fulfill during our lifetime. Rather than limiting each of us to only one act of fixing/healing (tikkun is the traditional Jewish term), I think the true purpose of that story is that we simply cannot fix everything; we can’t through all the starfish back in the ocean. Instead we should consider our lives a journey from one tikkun project to the next during which we fix something along the way.

Passover is the perfect time of year to clear away the puffy incapacitation of fatalism, cynicism and the rest. We should use Passover to infuse ourselves with enough purpose from our people’s story of moving from slavery to freedom, from oppression to liberation, to fuel ourselves with one more year’s worth of determination, purpose and confidence so that from this Passover to the next,we’ll find something…and fix it.


Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem…

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; those who love you shall prosper. Peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces. For the sake of my brothers and companions’, I will now say, Peace be within you. Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek your good.” (Psalm 122: 6-9)

For me, these majestic words of King David about Jerusalem are really about the whole of Israel. And…after this week’s Israeli election, I’m not sure what “Israel” means. I used to think that Israel was a country that aspired to create “peace and prosperity within her walls” for all her “brothers” (and, of course, sisters) and companions”. In my mind, that include Israel’s Arab citizens. That is not what happened this week. I also thought that one of our core purposes as a people was to wish and create peace for others and to do so because we come from the “house of Adonai”.That didn’t happen either.

Many of my colleagues and friends have said that the most significant downward turn in the run-up to the election was, when he was asked during an interview, “If you are Prime Minister a Palestinian state will not be established?”, Benjamin Netanyahu answered, “Indeed”. That wasn’t a downward turn. That was just Mr. Netanyahu showing his true colors. I didn’t find it that ominous or disturbing. On the other hand, what was ominous, disturbing and a moral and ethical downturn for Israel was when he warned voters, not in the midst of an interview, but rather in a purposefully worded Facebook post, “The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are going en masse to the polls. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them on buses,” When I heard that, I couldn’t help but think about the congregant who came running up to me during the Rodney King unrest and said in a panic, “They’re coming up Sepulveda!” We both knew who “they” were.

Mr. Netanyahu later tried to “qualify” his words saying, “What’s wrong is not that Arab citizens are voting, but that massive funds from abroad from left-wing NGOs and foreign governments are bringing them en masse to the polls in an organized way, thus twisting the true will of all Israeli citizens who are voting, for the good of the Left.” So, when Arab citizens vote for the Left they are somehow corrupting the “true will” of other, presumably Jewish, Leftist voters AND the “good of the Left“? Really? And, who, of all people, is Benjamin Netanyahu to speak about the true will of the Leftist Israeli voter?! That’s an explanation?! His statements were racist – pure and simple. What if, in another context, the word “Arab” was replaced by “African-American” or “Black”, or, in still another context, by the word “Jew”? What’s even more troubling is that his vitriol and hatred resonated with the “true will” of many in the Jewish Israeli Right who came out to defeat the Arab voter and a Palestinian State.

I know that many Israelis are just as disgusted by Mr. Netanyahu’s proclamations as I am. Still, I fear that this election has widened the gap between what too many Israelis consider to be the Jewish behavior and the Jewish ethic compared to the perspective of progressive Jews outside of Israel.

Do I still support Israel? Of course I do! That is NEVER a question for me. Yet, more and more, it seems what I am supporting is the Israel of my dreams.